.Computer security and safety

Photo: Envato Elements

Here’s how to prevent people and apps from stealing your data

Can you really trust the apps on your phone? Do you know exactly what those apps can access? Here’s how to protect your personal data.

.Computer security and safety

Photo: Envato Elements

The last few weeks have been full of bad news when it comes to the security of your phone. Security experts have been warning of all the ways our apps and permissions can be used to get hold of our precious data.

The sad reality is while most of us – and our data – are vulnerable to targeted attacks unless you have a wallet full of bitcoin or moonlight as an international spy, your security concerns are manageable.

It’s not all doom and gloom. While it’s true that app developers and hackers alike are getting better at finding ways to get a hold of your personal data, taking a few simple steps could save you from heartache in the long run.

How to protect your data

Use a password manager

One of the easiest things you can do is to start using a password manager. Despite what you’ve been told your passwords with capitals, numbers and characters are probably not that secure.

Add to that the sheer number of sites you need to log into daily and you’re possibly re-using some of your passwords across websites or letting your browser remember them all for you.

Password managers allow you to remember just one password and generate strong, unique passwords for all your accounts.

LastPass, a popular password manager, will even conduct periodic security checks on your profile data and make suggestions on possible problems with your online security.

Grant permissions with care

The official app stores are largely safe. But there are still a lot of unscrupulous developers out to sneak some additional data from you.

One of the most important things you can do is to make sure that none of the apps you install have any permissions they don’t need. And stop mindlessly click through the permissions after you download an app.

Once you’ve installed a new app, it pays to keep an eye on your phone’s performance. Rapid battery drain can be a sign that your new app is misbehaving in the background.

Limit your social media data footprint

While sharing information online and using social media can help improve relationships and keep in contact with friends and relatives, recent data breaches are a reminder that social media is a dangerous place for your personal data.

When volunteering information to a social media site, it’s always worth remembering that in almost any other context; companies like Facebook would gladly pay for your demographic information and to know more about you.

Social media’s business model revolves around their ability to place highly targeted adverts in front of users. And they do this by harvesting and selling your data.

With this in mind, much like app permissions, your best strategy is to use social media sparingly and only give as much information as necessary to support the reason you’re using the platform.

Only use apps from official app stores

This one may seem obvious. It’s worth remembering that despite the fact Google and Apple do their best to keep their apps free of malware, some dangerous apps still make it through.

At least with the official app stores, you have the assurance that there is some level of security, should a data breach occur.

When sideloading apps, there’s no way of knowing what you’re getting with very few exceptions. If an app is safe, it should be available from an official app store.

Keep software updated

As far as possible, set up your app store or phone to automatically download updates. If it’s worth having an app, it’s worth having the latest version.

Developers will continuously be updating possible security problems; you don’t want to expose yourself to danger because you haven’t applied a security fix when it was available.